Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

As Covid-19 cases go down, Austria prepares for significant reopening steps over Easter weekend and more news on Friday.

people streets vienna
Austria's population has hit the nine million mark for the first time. (Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash).

Austria is getting ready for fewer restrictions

On Thursday 14th April, the federal government and later on the same day, the Viennese representative announced several relaxations in the country, as Covid-19 cases dropped.

The general FFP2 mask mandate falls and masks will only be mandatory in public indoor spaces considered “essential”, such as supermarkets, public transport, and care facilities, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said.

Vienna is following similar relaxation measures and also from Saturday 16th April, will drop its mask mandate and its 2G rules.

From then on, people will no longer need to present proof that they have either been vaccinated against Covid-19 or have recovered from the disease to enter places such as sports facilities and bars and restaurants.

READ ALSO: Vienna to drop vaccination and recovery requirements from Saturday

Calls for more easing of restrictions

Even as the government announced fewer restrictions, some sectors demanded further reopening steps.

Trade unionists representing workers in the food trade have argued that dropping the mask requirement in other stores but not in supermarkets is “incomprehensible”.

“If you have to wear this mask eight hours a day and have to tidy up shelves and sometimes do heavy work, then it is no longer understandable why it is not mandatory in a clothing store, but it is in food markets”, Wolfgang Gerstmayer, Managing Director of the GPA, told ORF.

READ ALSO: Austria to keep masks only in ‘essential places’ from April 17th

Covid numbers continue to drop

Meanwhile, Covid case numbers continue to drop in Austria, according to the Health Ministry figures. On Thursday 14th April, 10,483 new cases of coronavirus infections were reported (there were 178,374 PCR tests taken).

Currently, 2,206 people are in hospital due to Covid-19, 131 fewer than the previous day, and 187 are in intensive care units with the virus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 16,359 people have died from Covid-19.

Austria currently has only 68.7% of its population fully immunised and have a valid green pass.

READ ALSO: Why are the numbers of fully-vaccinated people going down in Austria?

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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

More thunderstorms, no recession expected in Austria, Covid infections increase and more news from Austria on Thursday.

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

Covid-19 infection risk increases

Austria’s Covid traffic light commission has increased the risk rating of all federal states in Austria, with no states currently designated as “low risk”. The states of Vienna and Burgenland, both governed by the opposition SPÖ party, have now been designated orange or high risk level. However, this assessment should be treated with caution, as the commission no longer calculates the risk factor taking into account the number of tests carried out. Vienna and Burgenland test the most, and have the highest numbers of infections recorded. 

Monitoring of sewage shows the highest rate of infection is currently in Lower Austria, which remains in the yellow or medium risk zone, along with all the other federal states. 

Third night of storms in a row

For the third night in succession, violent storms hit Austria. Fire brigades were out in Upper Austria in the Steyr and Kirchdorf region and parts of the Mühlviertel. The cleanup in Carinthia continues, with the army using heavy equipment to remove rock from the Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach areas following mudslides. However, Tamsweg in Salzburg’s Lunga was spared from major damage to its buildings following flooding.

READ MORE: One dead, one missing in Austrian landslides

Austria unlikely to enter recession this year

Austria is not likely to enter a recession unless gas supplies from Russia stop coming into the country, the chief economist at Unicredit Bank Austria, Stefan Bruckbauer, predicts. This would not only paralyse large parts of industrial production, but would also drive up gas prices and general inflation. He told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper he does not want to rule out stagnation for the second half of the year. The Euro area is also not predicted to enter recession, according to a recent European Central Bank (ECB) survey of 29 economists. Economic experts at the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) expect GDP growth of 3.8 percent in Austria for this year and 1.9 percent for the following year.

READ MORE: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Zelensky and George Clooney to speak at  4Gamechangers Festival

The ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address an audience in Vienna live tonight at the 4Gamechangers Festival along with Austria’s  Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP). The performance can be seen on TV on ORF III and in ORF’s  live stream.

After Zelensky was not invited to speak in Parliament, it would be his first public live appearance in Austria since the beginning of the war.

The Hollywood star and human rights activist George Clooney is also a guest at the  4Gamechangers Festival. In the late afternoon he will speak on the future of human rights, broadcaster ORF reports. 

READ MORE: Explained: Why Austria won’t allow Ukraine’s Zelensky to speak before parliament

A Biedermeier house in Vienna is to be destroyed for economic reasons

A Biedermeier house in the seventh district  Vienna dating back to 1803/4 is to be destroyed under a building code called the “economic readiness for demolition”. This means if the costs of renovating a building  cannot be covered by the income from the property after renovation, it can be knocked down. The Biedermeier house together with the adjoining buildings at Kaiserstraße 25-29, forms part of an old town which  has been marked as a protection zone, and is under a monument protection law dating back to 1973.

Older buildings in Vienna have a rental cap, which means it is easier for developers to make money by destroying them and building a new larger building with more floors, which will not be subject to the rent rules. It also means there is no need to carry out costly renovations on the facade. Vienna’s Monument Protection Initiative is calling for the abolition of “economic demolition maturity” and thus an end to such promotion of demolition and new construction, broadcaster ORF reports. It warns that if this is not done, Vienna could lose most of its historic architecture. 

Charities are running out of money to help Ukrainian refugees

The charity Volkshilfe,  which issues supermarket vouchers to Ukrainian refugees, says donations have plummeted and it will no longer be able to help people buy food. Refugees currently receive six euros a day from basic services, which is not enough, charities say. Three weeks ago, Austria’s Council of Ministers decided to increase the allowance, but this has yet to be  implemented. The subsistence allowance is to be increased from 215 to 260 euros: for each refugee that would mean around two euros more per day for groceries, broadcaster ORF reports.